Look Closely

12-13-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian Manning

Often when looking at a landscape picture, whether it is in traditional oil or watercolor paint from or now an acrylic or photographic form, we often see a rather pleasant or edifying scene, but when we look much more closely we can discover and recognize all sorts of meaning because of secret symbolic elements in the scene. What you see is often more than what you see if you really observe closely.

The scripture at our Mass on this Third Sunday of Advent also invites us to open our eyes to look much more closely and discover what is really there. Once we have seen what we are asked to discover, it becomes ever so obvious. We may wonder why we did not see it all immediately. We are to see in the vignettes of today's scripture, that although Jesus has come in his incarnation Birth and that He will return again at the end of time, He is also here among us now in the lives of people round about us.

Our reading from Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will be the good news for broken lives and hearts, liberty for the enslaved, and vindication for all who receive him. Isaiah is here delivering a message of absolute joy. Our passage from Saint Paul takes this and adds to it by saying that joy, prayer, and thanks are to be the activities of those who await the Messiah's coming. For if we engage in these activities, then we will be able to see the actions of the Spirit of God in our lives. Not only will we see these actions, but we will also come to recognize the meaning of the Spirit in our lives.

In the Gospel reading, we see and in a sense hear the scene of the men who ask the question: "Are you John the Baptist and are you the Messiah?" They see John and do not know. They also can see the Messiah Jesus and do not recognize him either. John has to tell them to open their eyes, to look different, and that they will then see the Messiah. If they see him, then they will have lasting and true joy.

The Gospel has John the Baptizer playing a game of"guess who?" The Baptizer's questioners do not recognize him and neither do they recognize the Messiah who is already in their midst. So John wastes no time in telling them and in urging them to open their eyes, lest they miss out on true and lasting joy.

We come to understand that the Advent Season of four weeks is the special time that helps us get ready to celebrate the joy of the Messiah who is present among us. All we need to do is look closely and really see, and then we will see Him in our midst.